Priority Questions

St. Patrick's Day Celebrations

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

1. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his views on whether the St. Patrick’s Day festival is soulless; his plans to promote Irish culture and heritage during the St. Patrick's Day festivities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10700/14]

This question is appropriate as we move towards the celebration of the national feast. In tabling it, I am conscious that the national St. Patrick's Day festival is probably one of the most international of national festivals. In the brief time available to us, I want the opportunity to explore with the Minister how we can best celebrate it at home, whether what we are currently doing is good enough and whether we can do better.

Since 2012, the week around the St. Patrick's Day festival has been designated as the international week of Irish culture. That year was essentially the first of a five-year development plan in this regard, with the emphasis on the launch of an international celebration of the Irish culture brand and a series of programme activities based in existing cultural venues around the Merrion Square-Kildare Street areas of Dublin, marketing the message of "I Love My City".

Last year, the international element had Culture Connects, the international culture programme of Ireland's Presidency of the Council of the European Union, as its key focus. The domestic element of the celebration took place over an extended four-day period and featured 16 free headline events staged in the surroundings of some of our most prestigious cultural institutions and venues.

This year is year three of the initiative, and the I Love My City programme will again feature an array of diverse and eclectic cultural events, showcasing established and emerging artists from a variety of disciplines, including literature, music, film, visual arts and the spoken word. The domestic cultural programme will take place throughout the four days of the festival and some of our most well known cultural institutions and venues will play host to events, including the National Gallery of Ireland, the National Concert Hall, the National Library of Ireland, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, the Royal Hibernian Academy, RHA, and Archbishop Marsh's Library.

Internationally, my Department, through its Culture Ireland programme, has allocated funding of approximately €250,000 to more than 40 events in 18 different countries taking place over the St. Patrick's Day period. The aim is to enhance the overall impact of the period by promoting Irish arts and culture on the international stage at a time when the spotlight of the world is on Ireland.

I am satisfied that, far from being soulless, the St. Patrick's Day festival provides a wonderful opportunity, which is being well utilised, to showcase Irish culture and heritage at home and abroad.

I thank the Minister for his response and join in paying tribute to everyone involved in developing this as an important cultural festival, including Ms Susan Kirby and others who have given selflessly of their time. However, it is also appropriate to ask whether it can be improved upon. Recently, there was stringent criticism of the festival from none other than the Dublin lord mayor, who accused the organisers of lacking ambition, referred to it as a soulless festival and called the closing off of Merrion Square - he is particularly interested in that area, I suspect - as something that was about raising money rather than celebrating our Irishness and the best of what it is to be Irish.

Can we do better? Can we infuse something of the spirit, success, enthusiasm and vigour of the great fleadh cheoil, which is probably our principal cultural event, into the St. Patrick's Day celebrations?

I thank Deputy Ó Fearghaíl for raising this matter. He has accepted that we are doing well and are using St. Patrick's Day not only as a celebration of our Irishness but also as a platform to undertake other cultural events at home and internationally. Of course we can do better. For that reason, I will have a meeting in early April with Culture Ireland, which is a representative group, Tourism Ireland, which deals with the international marketing of Ireland, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, given its connection with the embassies and consulates general around the world, towards establishing an international programme. During the Irish Presidency, the Culture Connects programme proved how effectively a cross-Europe cultural programme could work. We can also probably improve the quality of our parades across the country while recognising the major effort that, for example, schools and arts organisations put into making floats and attractive parades, which are attracting about-----

I will let the Minister speak again.

I thank the Minister for that. The week after next, we will see a major exodus of members of the Government from Ireland. I salute the Cabinet and Ministers of State for their efforts and wish them well as they reach out to the Irish community across the world. I understand that the Minister is off to San Francisco.

This initiative is an important mission in terms of connecting with the Irish abroad and promoting Irish tourism and continued foreign direct investment, FDI. Is there an extra dimension to the initiative this year, given the fact that 28 members of the Cabinet and the junior team are heading abroad? We realise the importance of the initiative. Before the naysayers criticise the Government for doing this, they should consider the benefits that flow from it for the Irish at home and abroad.

I agree with the Deputy. I remember paying my own way to Silicon Valley and coming here when I was in opposition, at a time when Ministers were not going there, and saying I agreed totally that they should go there. When they did go somewhere, they were criticised from the Opposition benches. It is very important that they do go there. We are attracting a large number of the Irish Diaspora through the business diaspora and the Global Irish Economic Forum. If they come to Ireland, they do not charge us and they ask why we cannot go to them when we have this great opportunity. There is no other country that gets as much attention as Ireland on St. Patrick's Day because other countries do not have comparable festivals. That makes it very important for us. For that reason, despite the fact that funding for Culture Ireland was reduced somewhat this year because we wanted to spend the money on local organisations and events, we still have provided a sum of €250,000. There will be people going to 18 countries, some of whom will be performing in different places. Therefore, there is an appreciation and realisation that this is a great opportunity. Nonetheless, I take the Deputy's point that we could do better.

Scéimeanna Teanga

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

2. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Peadar Tóibín den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an dtabharfaidh sé sonraí ar chruinnithe a bhí ag Aire na Gaeltachta le gach Ard-Rúnaí chun mainneachtana maidir le scéimeanna teanga comhlachtaí poiblí (faoi Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla) atá luaite sa tuarascáil bhliantúil a phlé. [11100/14]

Michael P. Kitt

Question:

4. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Michael P. Kitt den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil athbhreithniú ar siúl ar úsáid na Gaeilge sna Ranna éagsúla agus sna comhlachtaí Stáit; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [11099/14]

Tá an Ghaeilge i ngéarchéim sa tír seo ag an mbomaite. Tá na mílte daoine tar éis teacht amach ar na sráideanna de bharr pholasaithe an Rialtais, agus an easpa acmhainní agus an easpa oibre ar an ábhar seo. Nuair a bhí an tAire Stáit ag an gcomhchoiste inné, dúirt sé gur daingníodh 16 scéim anuraidh. Ciallaíonn sé sin go dtógfaidh sé 25 bliain chun na scéimeanna ar fad a dhaingniú. Cad atá déanta ag an Aire Stáit chun an fhadhb seo a réiteach?

Tógfaidh mé ceisteanna Uimh. 2 agus 4 le chéile.

Tá próiseas leanúnach ar siúl faoi Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003 chun líon agus caighdeán na seirbhísí i nGaeilge a chuireann comhlachtaí poiblí ar fáil a fheabhsú. Aithníodh ón tús gur próiseas forchéimnitheach a bheadh i gceist le feidhmiú an Achta, ag tógáil céimeanna de réir a chéile le comhoibriú agus le dea-thoil na bpáirtithe leasmhara éagsúla. Sa chomhthéacs seo, aithnítear an tábhacht a bhaineann le dóthain daoine le hinniúlacht i nGaeilge a bheith ar fáil sa Státchóras chun freastal ar éileamh ón phobal ar sheirbhísí i nGaeilge. Mar thoradh ar chinneadh a thóg an Rialtas i mí Dheireadh Fómhair 2013 chun cumas na Gaeilge sa Státseirbhís a threisiú, tá an Roinn Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe ag iarraidh ar Ranna agus oifigí Rialtais sainaithint a dhéanamh ar phoist agus réimsí oibre ina dteastaíonn oifigigh le Gaeilge mar chuid den phróiseas pleanála don fhórsa oibre. Táthar ag iarraidh ar Ranna aird ar leith a thabhairt ar phoist atá lonnaithe i gceantair Ghaeltachta nó a dhéanann freastal ar cheantair Ghaeltachta. Beidh an próiseas seo lárnach chun a chinntiú go ndéanfar foráil dhóthanach i gcomórtais earcaíochta amach anseo do cheapacháin i bpoist ina dteastaíonn oifigigh le Gaeilge. Ina theannta sin, sonrófar na poist ina dteastaíonn oifigigh le Gaeilge i scéimeanna teanga faoi Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003 amach anseo. Tá na bearta seo ag teacht le spriocanna sonracha atá luaite sa straitéis 20 bliain don Ghaeilge chun cur leis an líon oifigeach atá in ann feidhmiú go dátheangach sa Státchóras. Maidir leis an dara ceist, a bhaineann leis na scéimeanna teanga atá daingnithe faoin Acht, ní miste a nótáil gur faoin Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta atá sé scéimeanna teanga a dhaingniú le comhlachtaí poiblí agus gur faoin gCoimisinéir Teanga atá sé faireachán a dhéanamh ar chur i bhfeidhm na scéimeanna teanga sin. Dá bhrí sin, níl aon ról agam faoin Acht a bheith ag plé le comhlachtaí poiblí maidir le cur i bhfeidhm a gcuid scéimeanna teanga.

Dúirt an tAire Stáit go bhfuil sé "ag tógáil céimeanna de réir a chéile". I ndáiríre, táimid ag cúlú de bharr na gcéimeanna sin. Dá ndéarfadh duine a bheadh ag dul le haghaidh NCT "tá na rothaí maol, níl dabht faoi sin, ach níl an t-airgead agam anois chun mo dhualgais dleathacha a chomhlíonadh" agus "diaidh ar ndiaidh, céim ar chéim, b'fhéidir go gcuirfidh mé cúpla euro isteach sa ghluaisteán, agus ar aghaidh liom", déarfadh an t-oifigeach NCT "ní féidir leat é sin a dhéanamh, caithfidh tú do chuid dualgas agus an dlí a chomhlíonadh". Níl sé sin á dhéanamh ag an Aire Stáit ná ag an Roinn ar chor ar bith. Tá sé suimiúil go ndúirt an tAire Stáit linn inné gur fhreastal 300 seirbhíseach poiblí ar ranganna Gaeilge le trí bliana anuas. Tá 300,000 duine sa Státchóras ag an mbomaite. Ciallaíonn sé sin go dtógfaidh sé 100 bliain go dtí go mbeidh 1% den Státchóras tar éis freastal ar ranganna Gaeilge chun a gcuid cumas teanga a fheabhsú. Ní céim ar aghaidh é sin - is cúlú é sin.

Ní shílim go bhfuil aon mhoilliú i gceist i dtaobh na scéimeanna teanga. Is dóigh liom gur a mhalairt atá fíor. Tá 185 comhlacht clúdaithe ag 113 scéim teanga i láthair na huaire. Aontaíodh 16 scéim úr anuraidh. Tá sé scéim eile daingnithe go dtí seo i mbliana. Tá foireann iomlán curtha le chéile anois agus beidh siad ag feidhmiú ar scéimeanna teanga as seo amach. Tá teagmháil déanta le 121 comhlacht poiblí eile. Tá comhráite agus plé ar siúl leo i láthair na huaire maidir le scéimeanna teanga. Caithfidh an Teachta a aontú gur dul chun cinn é sin. Is cuma cén dóigh a n-amharcann an Teachta ar an ábhar seo - is léir go bhfuilimid ag cur níos mó saothair, níos mó oibre agus níos mó béime ar scéimeanna teanga a aontú ná mar a tharla le fada.

Bhain an cheist a chuir mé ar an Aire Stáit leis an athbhreithniú atá á dhéanamh ar úsáid na Gaeilge. Dúirt mé inné ag an gcruinniú go bhfuil méadú ag teacht ar líon na ngearán ón phobal. De réir tuairisc an Choimisinéara Teanga, tá an uimhir méadaithe ó 734 sa bhliain 2011 go dtí 757 sa bhliain 2012. Tháinig formhór na ngearáin ó Chontae Bhaile Átha Cliath, Contae na Gaillimhe, Contae Chiarraí, Contae Chill Chainnigh, Contae na Mí, Contae Dhún na nGall agus Contae Chorcaí. Tháinig 26% de na gearáin ón nGaeltacht. Tá cothrom na féinne agus dualgas reachtúil i gceist anseo. An féidir leis an Aire Stáit a rá liom go mbeidh an t-athbhreithniú sin á dhéanamh agus go dtiocfaidh toradh níos fearr ón obair seo?

Sílim gur rud maith é go bhfuil gearáin ag teacht isteach ón bpobal. Léiríonn sé go bhfuil éileamh i measc an phobail ar sheirbhísí trí Ghaeilge. Ba cheart dúinn éisteacht leis an éileamh sin agus freagra a thabhairt air. Tá iarrachtaí á ndéanamh, ar ndóigh. Táimid chun cur chuige úr a chur i bhfeidhm i bhfeachtais earcaíochta an Státseirbhís as seo amach, ionas go mbeidh céatadán áirithe d'áiteanna curtha ar fáil d'iarrthóirí le hardchumas Gaeilge. Níor tharla sé sin le 40 bliain. B'fhéidir nach bhfuil ann ach an beagán, ach is tús maith é mar aitheantas go bhfuil an t-easnamh sin ann. Chomh maith leis sin, tá an Roinn Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe ag iarraidh ar gach rannóg Rialtais agus ar gach comhlacht Stáit a aimsiú cá bhfuil gá le hoifigigh le Gaeilge ar a gcumas acu chun seirbhís a sholáthar do shaoránaigh na tíre seo. Tá dhá chéim chun tosaigh tógtha. B'fhéidir nach bhfuil ann ach tosú, ach is tosú iontach deimhneach atá ann.

Ní cheapaim go dtuigeann an tAire Stáit cé chomh feargach is atá daoine i dtaobh na ceiste seo. Go simplí, tá siad ag iarraidh dul i dteagmháil leis an Stát agus a gcuid gnó a dhéanamh trí mheán na Gaeilge. Nuair a théann siad i dteagmháil leis an Stát, de ghnáth diúltaíonn dóibh an Ghaeilge a húsáid. Is é sin an gnáthchleachtadh atá ag daoine faoi láthair. Dúirt an tAire Stáit go bhfuil 415 comhlacht fós le scéimeanna a dhaingniú. Ós rud é go bhfuil 16 scéim á dhaingniú gach bliain i láthair na huaire, tógfaidh sé 25 bliain chun na scéimeanna go léir a dhaingniú. Dúirt an tAire Stáit go bhfuil sé i gceist níos mó daoine le Gaeilge a earcú sa Státchóras. Dúirt an Coimisinéir Teanga go dtógfaidh sé 28 bliain chun an sprioc a bhaint amach. Níl aon chostas ag baint leis na rudaí seo, ach tá deifir ag baint leo. Is rud uafásach práinneach é seo. De réir an taighde atá déanta, níl ach 16 bliain fágtha ag an nGaeilge mar theanga phobail sa Ghaeltacht. Cén fáth a bhfuil an Rialtas ag cur moill ar an bpróiseas seo?

Sílim go gcaithfidh an Teachta aontú liom go bhfuil sé seo an chéad rud cinnte atá déanta le blianta fada chun freagra a thabhairt ar an éileamh ar sheirbhísí Gaeilge atá i measc an phobail. Tá sé ráite agam go bhfuil dhá chéim mhóra tógtha againn - go gcuirfear le chéile painéal speisialta de dhaoine le hardchumas Gaeilge san earcaíocht atá amach romhainn agus go mbeidh-----

Beidh mé 70 bliain d'aois faoin am a bheidh an sprioc sin bainte amach.

Tá sainscrúdú nó sainaithint á dhéanamh i ngach Roinn maidir leis na háiteanna ina bhfuil gá le seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge. Tá daoine i ngach Roinn Stáit a bhfuil ardchumas Gaeilge acu, ach nach bhfuil deis acu bheith ag plé leis an bpobal. Tá an dá rud cinnte sin ar siúl. Tá cúrsaí speisialta á gcur ar fáil do dhaoine a bhfuil suim acu feabhas a chur ar a gcuid Gaeilge. Beidh siad in ann cáilíochtaí a bhaint amach dá bharr. Mar sin, aithníonn an Stát cad atá le déanamh. Don chéad uair ó tháinig mé isteach anseo - tá mé anseo níos faide ná an Teachta - tá céimeanna deimhneacha á dtógáil maidir leis na fadhbanna seo.

Aontaím leis an Aire Stáit gur maith an rud é go bhfuil daoine ag gearán faoin tseirbhís atá á sholáthar. Tá súil agam go n-aontóidh sé liom gur maith an rud é go bhfuil daoine ag máirseáil. Bhí athrú meoin aige mar gheall ar sin. Ag an mórshúil i mBaile Átha Cliath cúpla seachtain ó shin, dúirt bean gur sheol sí e-mail chuig an HSE i nGaeilge, ach fuair sí freagra as Béarla. Ní dóigh liom gur ceart go dtarlódh a leithéid. Tá súil agam go mbeidh an tAire Stáit in ann leigheas a chur ar an scéal sin. An aontaíonn an tAire Stáit le Conradh na Gaeilge gur cheart go mbeadh sé mar chuspóir go mbeidh - faoi dheireadh na bliana 2016 - gach seirbhís Stáit ar fáil trí Ghaeilge do phobal na Gaeltachta, agus go mbeadh na seirbhísí sin ar chomhchaighdeán leis na seirbhísí a chuirtear ar fáil trí Bhéarla in áiteanna eile?

Ba bhreá liom a rá go bhfuil seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge ar fáil anois do gach duine a éilíonn na seirbhísí sin, ach tá oidhreacht nó legacy i gceist anseo. Tháinig an fhadhb seo chun cinn le roinnt blianta anuas - le 40 bliain anuas, b'fhéidir. Mar a dúirt mé, tá cur chuige úr ann anois. Tá a lán talamh le déanamh suas. Ba mhaith liom go bhfaigheadh éinne a scríobhann chuig Roinn Rialtais - i nGaeilge nó i mBéarla - freagra sa teanga inar ndearna siad teagmháil leis an Roinn. Caithfimid gach iarracht a dhéanamh a chinntiú gur mar sin atá. Má scríobhann duine litir trí Ghaeilge, ba cheart dó freagra a fháil i nGaeilge. Má scríobhann sé litir trí Bhéarla, ba cheart dó freagra a fháil i mBéarla. Tá sé sin ceart agus aontaím leis. Is é an sprioc agus an cuspóir atá againn ná gur mar sin ba chóir go mbeadh sé. Caithfidh sé bheith mar sin.

Natural Heritage Areas Designation

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

3. Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht with regard to the permit system that he has put in place for owners of natural heritage area bogs, the way the owners are to access this system; the way persons are supposed to know if they have a bog with such a designation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10844/14]

My question is about how this proposed permit system will work on NHA bogs and how people were notified about this. The Minister was asked on Shannonside Radio if people were contacted and he answered that "they probably were".

The recently published Review of Ireland’s Raised Bog Natural Heritage Areas, which is available to download from my Department’s website, provides detail on future arrangements regarding turf cutting on each of the 75 raised bog NHAs. Based on a comprehensive scientific assessment, the review has proposed a reconfiguration of the network of raised bog NHAs, which will improve conservation outcomes by increasing the area of endangered habitats within the network of sites. At the same time, it will exclude the most heavily cut sites, thereby avoiding any impact on over 80% of active turfcutters currently in the NHA network; from over 3,000 to around 500 cutters.

The review envisages the complete or partial de-designation of 46 existing NHAs where turf-cutting may continue into the future. In these de-designation cases, it will not be necessary for individuals to seek consent to cut turf. The review also envisages effective cessation of turf cutting on 36 NHAs by 1 January 2017, in order to preserve their conservation value. Management plans, which will be subject to environmental assessment, will be prepared for each site. Turf-cutters on these sites will require consent from my Department before cutting this year. The review further envisages the proposed designation of 25 new sites as raised bogs NHAs later this year to replace the habitat lost through de-designation of the more heavily cut sites. Many of these proposed sites are in public ownership, or have relatively few or no turf cutters.

It has been possible to subdivide seven current NHAs in such as way as to allow for a continuation of turf-cutting in one part and conservation elsewhere on the site. This has resulted in a total of 82 separate units within the original 75 NHAs.

My Department has written directly to more than 3,600 landowners who may have an interest in the NHAs where consent will be required from this year. Site maps were enclosed with those letters, as well as advice on how to obtain an application form for the compensation scheme or consent to continue cutting. Last week, notices explaining future turf cutting arrangements on these sites were placed in local newspapers, which circulate in the areas where the relevant NHA bogs are located. Any turf-cutter required to cease turf-cutting on an NHA is being offered compensatory measures similar to those available to turf-cutters from raised bog special areas of conservation. Such compensation will be available to qualifying persons with effect from 2014. Application forms for the compensation scheme or for permits to continue cutting over the next three years are available on request from my Department. Relevant contact details are published on my Department's websites.

When the advertisements were placed in the newspaper, turf cutters contacted the number provided and were told that resources are stretched at the NPWS. They were told that they have not got the permit system ready. I contacted the NPWS 20 minutes ago and again they told me that resources are stretched and they do not have anything ready. They could not tell me the details of how the permit worked. Initially, they wanted to know in what bog was I cutting my turf. People will be going out in three or four weeks to cut their turf, depending on the weather, but no permit system has been organised or put in place yet. It is important to protest at the idea that people would have to ask permission anyway to do something they have done for centuries. It is like a child in school having to ask permission to go to the toilet. They are not children.

I am glad that the Deputy raised this matter here and I will make immediate inquiries as to the availability of permits. This service should be available to those people who are affected. I will certainly ensure that it will be made available. If there is a problem with the existing system, we certainly need to improve it because I agree that these people deserve the right to know how to apply for the permit and whether they have to get one or not. We have written to them - 3,600 letters have gone out - and advertisements have been placed in local newspapers where there would be affected bog owners, but if there is still confusion, I will ensure that will be improved by a communication. I thank the Deputy for raising the matter.

Sadly, there is no system in place as yet. The Minister has advertised that there is a system in place, but that is not the case. Apparently, he has written to thousands of people, but a system has still not been established. That is a failure on his part. The same mistakes are being made in the bogs the Minister is considering excluding and those he intends to include. In Carricknaughton near Athlone, pasture land is going to be included in one of these areas and the person who owns it will be obliged to obtain permission to use it.

I take the opportunity to make a point on a particular matter which may not be raised in the House today. I condemn whoever was responsible for shooting a white-tailed eagle in County Tipperary. Many turf cutters and I are of the view that those involved are gurriers. What they did was shameful.

I am not aware of any pasture land being included in turf-cutting areas. The Deputy referred to permits and advice being made available. I take what he said very seriously and will address the matter immediately. This is a very important and sensitive matter. As Minister, I am responsible for ensuring both European and national laws are enforced and the Deputy is representing his constituency. We are, therefore, approaching the matter from different angles. However, there is a system in place and its existence must be made known. In addition, the service must also be available. I will ensure this is the case and will follow up on the matter immediately.

I join the Deputy in condemning the people who ruthlessly shot the white-tailed eagle in County Tipperary. We are trying to repopulate the country with eagles.

We are united on this one.

I welcome what the Deputy said about this matter.

Question No. 4 answered with Question No. 2.

National Library

Catherine Murphy

Question:

5. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the amount of funding allocated to the National Library of Ireland, NLI, in each of the past ten years, including 2014; if he will provide details of any representations made to him by the management of the NLI outlining the severity of the situation which obtains there at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10698/14]

A number of staff from the National Library of Ireland came before the Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht recently and I tabled this question as a consequence of what they had to say. Only 1% of the holdings of the National Library of Ireland are conserved to international standards. When members of the committee teased out the matter further with their guests, it emerged that the situation in preserving the National Library of Ireland's stock was precarious.

On a general note, the Deputy will be aware that all of the national cultural institutions, including the National Library of Ireland, have unavoidably suffered significant cuts in their allocations in recent years. This is an unpleasant reality with which every publicly funded body has had to deal with during the economic crisis of the past few years. The Government has done its utmost to minimise budget cuts for the cultural institutions, in so far as was possible, while being cognisant of competing demands on the public finances. The stark reality is that in the current funding environment institutions have had to make difficult choices when prioritising the spending of their allocations.

The National Library of Ireland and its board are statutorily independent under the National Cultural Institutions Act 1997. It is the statutory responsibility of the board to determine the priorities for the institution based on the resources available to it and the need to ensure the conservation and protection of its collections. I assure the Deputy of the Government's interest in and continuing support for our national cultural institutions. I remain hopeful that, notwithstanding the continuing pressure on the State's finances, it will prove possible in the coming years to ease the resource constraints. The funding to the National Library of Ireland since it became statutorily independent in 2005 is set out in the table that will be included in the Official Report. In the past two years the National Library of Ireland has managed its employment control framework in such a way as to yield some leeway in addressing resource issues. I have also made additional moneys available for its temporary exhibition programme and the development of the Heaney exhibition.

My Department maintains ongoing contacts with the management of the National Library of Ireland on a wide range of issues. I stress, however, that day-to-day operations are a matter entirely for the board and the director of the library.

NATIONAL LIBRARY

Year

Current

Capital

Total

2005

€8,054,000

€1,350,000

€9,404,000

2006

€9,067,000

€2,350,000

€11,417,000

2007

€9,201,000

€4,000,000

€13,201,000

2008

€9,752,000

€2,250,000

€12,002,000

2009

€9,242,000

€1,500,000

€10,742,000

2010

€7,848,000

€1,500,000

€9,348,000

2011

€7,084,000

€1,000,000

€8,084,000

2012

€6,620,000

€500,000

€7,120,000

2013

€6,153,000

€452,000

€6,605,000

2014

€5,912,000

€428,000

€6,340,000

The National Library of Ireland appears to be in an impossible position and its resources seem to be stretched to the point where it has found it necessary to bring in outside experts on occasion. The overall figure for the cuts it has been obliged to absorb is somewhere in the region of 40%. It appears that a very low priority is being afforded to certain aspects of our cultural heritage. The National Library of Ireland and the National Archives of Ireland appear to be in the most serious of difficulties. Less than 100 years ago the Public Record Office of Ireland was set on fire and 700 years worth of records were lost. Will people 100 years from now ask questions about the point when the holdings of the National Library of Ireland came under threat? There is a serious possibility that irreparable damage is being done. More needs to be done as a matter of urgency.

Between 2007 and 2011 when I took office the allocation for the National Library of Ireland was reduced from €13.2 million to €8 million, a decrease of €5.117 million. Since I became Minister, the reduction has been €780,000. Last year we minimised the cut to the National Library of Ireland's funding. The figure in that regard was just €265,000. In the five years since 2010 the aggregate allocation to the library has been €38 million. In the same period a potential acquisitions fund of €30 million has been available to it and the other national cultural institutions under section 1003 of the Taxes Consolidation Act. The National Library of Ireland continues to receive substantial funding, particularly when one considers the challenges we face from an economic point of view. In 2012 it was hard-pressed to expend its entire allocation. I hope we will be able to restore its funding in the future. As I understand it, it is not in the position described by the Deputy.

The National Library of Ireland also has a tourism function and has been stretching in order to provide a very good genealogy service, which is very much in demand. That is taking from the library's other work. That only 1% of its collections can be preserved to international standards, particularly as the country has such a rich heritage, is really shameful. I acknowledge that most of the reductions in the National Library of Ireland's funding happened prior to the Minister taking office. What is required is an assessment of what the library needs, at a very minimum, to conserve its collections in order that they will not become damaged beyond repair.

I share the Deputy's concern. Unfortunately, when the country had the necessary resources available to it, no one had either the vision or the commitment required to ensure the work to which the Deputy refers was done. That work should have been carried out, but this did not happen. I inherited a very challenging situation and was obliged to introduce cuts for all of the cultural institutions. Last year we gave preferential treatment to the library and, as a result, the cutback in its funding was less than 4%. We also provided additional funding for the Heaney archive. I am looking forward to engaging with the new director of the National Library of Ireland who is due to be appointed shortly and with its board to ensure some of the problems and challenges highlighted by the Deputy can be addressed.

I have been a supporter of the National Library of Ireland since I became a Member of the Oireachtas 30 years ago. I visit it regularly and support it in every way possible. As a result, I am very conscious of its value. I will be launching the "Inspiring Ireland" website during my visit to San Francisco for St. Patrick's Day.

That website which will include material from the library will provide an opportunity for greater digitisation which is the best way to preserve material.